Figure of Speech: antonomasia (an-to-no-MAY-sia), the namer. From the Greek, meaning “other name.”
Andrew Lloyd Webber, the literary giant who produced Phantom of the Opera and Jesus Christ Superstar, was recognized for his lifetime contribution to “the arts” at the annual Kennedy Center Honors. Steven Spielberg, Dolly Parton, Zubin Mehta and Smokey Robinson also received their propers.
The Times gushes about Mr. Webber in a hyperbolic antonomasia, a figure that swaps a proper name for a description, or vice versa. You can tell an antonomasia by the article (“a,” “the,”) in front of the name. Webber isn’t Shakespeare, but he’s a Shakespeare.
Really? The struggling old newspaper increasingly uses the passive voice instead of actual people for authoritative opinion. Just who “often refers to” Webber as a Shakespeare?
Snappy Answer: “More like a Bulwer-Lytton, we’d say.”